Lisa Goodwin-Allen and the team at Northcote brought a taste of Lancashire to diners at the Cateys, one of hospitality's glitziest awards ceremonies, held at London's Grosvenor House. Chris Gamm reports
Over the years, a who's who of the food world have taken on the challenge, including Tom Kerridge, Angela Hartnett, Simon Rogan, Gary Usher and many more. Their signature dishes and techniques may be tried and tested in the relative safety of their own kitchens, but how will they work when scaled up for the tricky audience of 1,200 of hospitality's biggest movers and shakers?
For the past decade, banqueting don Nigel Boschetti, leading a brigade of 70, has guided the guest chefs' menus through the behemoth kitchens of Grosvenor House, a JW Marriott hotel. The 2019 Cateys sees not one, but two new chefs take on the challenge. First, Lisa Goodwin-Allen, the brilliant young executive chef at Northcote in Langho, Lancashire, who created the menu. And secondly Paul Bates, the man filling Boschetti's shoes following his departure for New York's Marriott Marquis.
"I was shocked to be asked," says Goodwin-Allen, who heads up the Michelin-starred restaurant she joined in 2001. "It's such an honour. It's very daunting to cook for so many peers and amazing chefs. You want to do yourself justice and for the meal to be tasty, but achievable on such a huge scale."
Lancashire born, bred and bread
Northcote sits on the edge of the Ribble Valley, between Preston and Burnley, and was founded in 1983 by chef Nigel Haworth and then general manager Craig Bancroft, who is now the property's managing director.
Like both Goodwin-Allen and Bancroft, the 2019 Cateys menu was very much born in Lancashire. Back in February, a team from The Caterer and Grosvenor House visited Northcote for the first menu tasting, just days after the end of the Obsession 19 food festival, which sees top chefs from all over the world cook at the hotel. Goodwin-Allen hadn't had a day off in more than a month, but was in good spirits as she unveiled a menu showcasing the best produce - and cooking - the region has to offer. "We wanted to have a Lancastrian theme, to give a sense of place to what we're doing, with locality, seasonality and provenance running through the menu," she says.
"The aim was to be as inventive as possible, to showcase seasonal produce packed with flavour, and for it to be fresh and delicious."
The meal at the Cateys, staged in partnership with Bunzl Catering & Hospitality Division, begins with Lancashire cheese bread, containing Mrs Butler's Traditional Lancashire Cheese, which is synonymous with dining in Northcote's Michelin-starred restaurant.
Starter: Beets, smoked eel, whipped curd, pine nuts, ash
The star of the starter is salt-baked beetroot - or 'Lancashire pineapple', as they're known locally - which are finely sliced and then pickled. It's joined by blowtorched smoked eel, which adds flavour and complements the texture of the beetroot, as well as whipped curd mousse, a dressing of smoked pine nuts and mixed herbs, and finished with beetroot ash.
"It's very light and, apart from the eel, very local," says Goodwin-Allen. "It's a little bit different and a really lovely dish with good depth of flavour."
A shared passion for local produce and using slightly unusual ingredients unites the two chefs from very different kitchens.
"It's been educational to meet a colleague from another part of the country and discuss how we can take a Michelin-starred menu and translate it for a large event format," says Bates.
"Lisa has been great and did a lot of the thinking for us, but we made a few suggestions about how to simplify processes and make the dishes more practical without compromising quality."
Changes to the starter include salt-baking the beetroots in batches in oven trays instead of individually, as Goodwin-Allen would in her kitchen, as well as adjusting the dressing recipe to make it slightly thicker, so it can sit on the plate for longer without spreading. Bates learned from the process too: "We didn't have a dehydrator to make the beetroot ash, so we figured out a new process involving a fan oven on a low heat. We'll be able to use this technique again in the future."
Main: Corn-fed chicken, leg bolognese, turnip, black garlic
For the main course, a succulent chicken breast with a brioche crumb underneath the skin is paired with a bolognese sauce made from the leg meat to make use of the whole animal, alongside salt-baked turnip and a black garlic purée.
"I cook the chicken very slowly on the crown, but it wouldn't work when you're cooking 600 chickens," says Goodwin-Allen. Instead, Bates found an alternative method of cooking chicken breasts in two stages, adding extra skin from the leg in order to retain the moisture.
Black garlic isn't the only unusual ingredient in the dish. With lamb and beef the mainstays of banquet main courses, the humble chicken is something of a rarity.
"The fact it's the Cateys means the pressure is on," says Bates. "I wouldn't have been brave enough to use different ingredients like eel or chicken for most events, but with the Cateys, I think people have had enough of fillet steak.
"The main course is a dish I say you want to 'get among'. You want to save a bit of bread so you can mop up every last bit of sauce. It's real food, presented beautifully. The industry will get this menu."
Dessert: English strawberries, lemon verbena, burnt meringue
The dessert - a take on strawberries, cream and meringue - is the most complex dish on the menu as it requires a myriad of elements to be plated at the last minute.
"I needed 14 chefs finishing the dish, adding the compote, custard, meringue, sugar strands and sorbet," says Bates. "It was worth it though, as it has beautiful flavours and it is very refreshing."
The meal ends with one final nod to the north; an Eccles cake petit four. "They're really tasty and go down so well," says Goodwin-Allen.
On the day Goodwin-Allen brings three of her "lieutenants" to London - senior sous chef Danny Young, pastry chef Cristian Cazacu, and cookery school head tutor Jason Birkbeck - to build their knowledge and experience and to support the Grosvenor House team. And they are certainly put to work, spending six hours on Cateys day dicing smoked eel for the starter.
Cooking for 1,200 of her peers isn't the only stress for Goodwin-Allen on the night: she is also shortlisted for the prestigious Chef Catey, up against Nathan Outlaw, James Knappett, Tom Kitchen and Paul Ainsworth.
While the award was picked up by Ainsworth, it was without doubt a night Goodwin-Allen will never forget. And a stunning meal the Cateys audience won't forget any time soon, delivered superbly by a brilliant chef who is clearly going places.
Meet Lisa Goodwin-Allen
n graduating from Lancaster & Morecambe College in 2000, Goodwin-Allen spent nearly two years working at Holbeck Ghyll in the Lake District and the two-Michelin-starred Le Champignon Sauvage in Cheltenham. In 2001, she moved back north to join Northcote as demi chef de partie, working under Nigel Haworth.
She was promoted to chef de partie in 2002, junior sous and then sous in 2003 and head chef in 2004, aged 23, a role she held for 10 years.
In 2014, Goodwin-Allen became executive chef before taking full control of Northcote's kitchens in 2017 when Haworth moved into an ambassadorial role. The following year she retained the restaurant's Michelin star, which it had held since 1996. In 2019, Goodwin-Allen was shortlisted for the Cateys Chef Award alongside Nathan Outlaw, James Knappett, Tom Kitchin and the winner, Paul Ainsworth.
Meet Paul Bates
Bates joined Grosvenor House hotel as executive head chef in January 2019 from the Hilton London Bankside, where he had spent the previous four years.
Previously, Bates had been executive chef at the Beaumont, InterContinental Park Lane, Millennium Mayfair and Millennium Knightsbridge.
A close friend of his predecessor, Bates and Nigel Boschetti worked together while at the Millennium group, when Boschetti was executive chef at the Millennium Gloucester hotel.
The menu and wine listLancashire cheese bread
Beets, smoked eel, whipped curd, smoked pine nuts, ash
Corn-fed chicken, leg Bolognese, turnip, black garlic
English strawberries, lemon verbena, burnt meringue
Matthew Clark national account director Nick Zalinski on the wines he pairedwith Lisa Goodwin-Allen's menu:
Aperitif - Chapel Down Sparkling Bacchus 2018, England
The Caterer team is always keen to showcase new trends at the Cateys and famously exposed the audience to Aperol Spritz. Traditional method English sparkling wine is hot, yet Chapel Down's innovative fizz from the stunning 2018 vintage breaks new grounds. Intense with tropical flavours of pineapple, grapefruit and elderflower.
StarterArca Nova Branco, Quinta das Arcas, Vinho Verde, Portugal 2018
Goodwin-Allen's cooking is always cleverly balanced, so this dish cries out for a wine that is at once crisp and gentle. Quinta da Arcas' Loureiro-dominated vinho verde is like a morning stroll along the beach: fresh and fragrant, with a perky saline spritz on the finish.
Main - Barbera d'Asti Superiore 2013, Ca' Bianca, Piedmont, Italy
Chicken can take many a wine match, but the use of the leg meat to create a ragÁ¹ steers you towards the fuller flavours of something red. This high-altitude Piedmont estate produces a classy oak-aged Barbera with silky complexity and a lively red-fruit character.
Dessert - Chateau du Seuil Cerons, 2016, France
The world's great dessert wines are hand-crafted from late-picked, noble-rot-affected grapes. Here we have a classic combination of Sémillon and Sauvignon, harvested on Welshman Bob Watts' celebrated estate. There are complex flavours of caramel, candied apricot, smoky oak and citrus, but the natural sweetness is perfectly matched to Lisa's dessert.
Hall of fame - who's cooked at the Cateys
2019 Lisa Goodwin-Allen
2018 Paul Cunningham
2017 The Pig
2016 Simon Rogan
2015 Mark Sargeant
2014 Gary Usher
2013 Jason Atherton
2012 Tom Kerridge
2011 Chris and Jeff Galvin
2010 Angela Hartnett
2008 Marcus Wareing
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